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Can ‘T-Commerce’ Finally Cash In?

TV advertising has never really been able
to close the deal. To buy the goods or services marketed on
the tube, viewers have to pick up the phone or click on a

Now, after years of “T-commerce” failing to live up to
its promise, the idea is getting a renewed push from Comcast,
electronic-payment provider PayPal
and TiVo.

Comcast is working with PayPal to explore
enabling new forms of payment on
TVs and other devices as an extension of the
MSO’s advertising business, chief technology
officer Tony Werner announced at the
TV of Tomorrow conference in San Francisco
last week.

Separately, TiVo and PayPal announced
a pact under which advertisers will have
the ability to sell products and services
via traditional 30-second ads and receive
payments through users’ PayPal accounts
starting in the fall. TiVo also said the Tcommerce
system will be available to its MSO customers,
which include Charter Communications, Suddenlink Communications,
RCN and Virgin Media.

Of course, the concept of letting TV viewers shop with
their remote controls has been around since the earliest
days of interactive TV — ordering a pizza was a feature
of Time Warner Cable’s Full Service Network in the mid-
’90s. Players currently engaged in T-commerce include
HSN, which provides on-screen interactive-TV apps that
let viewers buy products featured on the shopping channel
through Comcast, Dish Network, Verizon Communications
and other operators.

But none of the industry’s efforts to date has achieved
much success.

PayPal, for one, believes it has the scale to make TV payments
easy and ubiquitous. The company, a subsidiary of
eBay, hosts 110 million active accounts in 190 markets and
25 currencies around the world. The company said it currently
handles about 20% of all e-commerce transactions
and 33% of mobile transactions.

“There’s been a lot of talk about interactive ‘T-commerce’
for a long time, but all signs point to an industry
that’s finally on the verge of taking a real foothold in consumers’
lives,” PayPal vice president of emerging opportunities
Scott Dunlap wrote in a blog post discussing the
Comcast and TiVo deals.

PayPal could eliminate one big hurdle
for T-commerce by simplifying the checkout
process, SeaChange International chief
technology officer Steve Davi said. “People
have been reluctant to provide their credit
card information on the TV or have a purchase
show up on their cable bill,” he said. “I
think PayPal takes that issue away.”

Arthur Orduña is certainly a T-commerce
true believer.

Orduña, most recently chief product officer of cable’s Canoe Ventures advanced-advertising
company, this month joined PayPal
in a business-development role. Canoe announced
in February that it had decided to
shut down its interactive-TV business to focus exclusively on
VOD advertising. The company laid off 120 employees, including
Orduña and CEO Kathy Timko.

“My job is to help PayPal develop relationships, and enable
and launch transactional capabilities with MSOs and
other key television ecosystem partners,” Orduña wrote in
an email to Multichannel News.

With Comcast, PayPal is examining ways to let consumers
make purchases or donations related to the content
they’re watching on TV either directly through their TV using
the remote control, or via a companion device such as a
smartphone or tablet. The companies also are exploring opportunities
to let viewers accept coupons directly into their
PayPal online wallet during TV commercials, Dunlap said.

Comcast did not offer details of how or when it plans to
implement PayPal, with Werner noting that the companies
are “in the very early stages of our discussions.”

“This will let us work together and look at ways to expand
how people can interact with
their TV services in ways that offer
them more choice and the ability to
personalize their experiences,” Werner
wrote in a blog post outlining
the news. “And we view providing
our viewers with single-screen and
co-viewing T-commerce experiences
to be a natural extension of our
advanced-advertising products.”


Pay TV subscribers appear ready to embrace T-commerce:

49% of TV subscribers are interested in purchasing goods and services
linked to the content they’re watching on TV.

Nearly 30% of TV subscribers said they would use PayPal to make those

SOURCE: PayPal survey, October 2011